Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Life in the Landscape

I am definitely a child of the hills, a product of the environment of my childhood in Alfred, NY. Alfred is part of the Allegheny Plateau, at the northern part of the Appalachian Mountain chain. I always used to tell people that Alfred was a main street in a deep valley, with two colleges (Alfred University and SUNY at Alfred) terraced up on either side. My home was on one of the roads that led up and out of town, just below one of the highest points of elevation in the county, well over 2200'.

Still today I can recall certain hills and twists and turns in the road where suddenly the whole valley vista would open before you - those were, and still are, some of my favorite places.

And nothing is better than a sunny day with scattered clouds, when you can see the shadows formed by the clouds moving across the green trees that covered the hills. Or a fall day when the hills explode into a hundred different shades of red and orange and yellow and green - with the brilliant clear high blue sky above them.

Hillsides dotted with sheep and cows and hay bales, barns nestled in little hollows in the valleys.

I miss these things - although I live in farm country, my home is in a different topography and our highest hill is laughable in comparison to the hills of my childhood, topping out around 650'. Other places I have lived have been somewhat hilly, but nothing like those rolling hills of childhood. The vistas just don't take my breath away like those Allegheny hills.

Last week's Shop Hop took me back towards those hills - on a sunny day with scattered clouds. I didn't think to pull out the camera on the way down to capture the landscape, and by the time I was headed home the sun was setting, one of those wondrous long sunsets that came and went as the car traveled from valley to hilltop, opening up vistas of valleys in shadow while the hilltops were kissed by that late day orange light. Two hot air balloons drifted high above the valley in the late lingering light, and I envied their view. I snapped a photo out the car window as I drove - but it just does not do it justice (the dirty car windows don't help, either).

Although I was stopping at new destinations, I was actually on roads well known and often traveled. My second shop stop came on a route that, had I continued on, would have led me back to Alfred. With the sun and the puffy clouds and the blue sky above - my heart and soul were tempted to head in that direction and let my eyes soak in the hills.

Alas, commitments (and quilt shops) called me in another direction. Which was again over often traveled roads, roads that used to take me from my childhood home to my grandparents, or to visit a school friend in another town. Roads that marked the start and end of nearly every family vacation I remember. It was actually odd to get off this highway to visit a quilt shop, as it was a region that was always a "pass through" and never a destination.

I did squeeze in a stop at an old "destination" - a McDonald's in Bath, NY - halfway between my home and the home of that old school friend. Parents used to drive us to this McD's to meet for pick up or drop off for a weekend visit, eliminating the need for either family to make that long drive twice.

Although I had never actually done the driving myself, there was something comfortable in coming off the highway exit, making that left turn, and turning into the parking lot. Even the on-ramp to get back on the highway, westbound towards homes both old and new, felt familiar and just so right, like I had just done it yesterday, or last week, or 23 years ago.

Again I reached a crossroads, west towards Alfred or north towards home.

This time there was no temptation - home isn't in the hills anymore, it is where the Munchkin and Hubby are waiting.

But I will visit those hills again - and bring them along to enjoy the views.


Gina said...

I'm with you on this one.

Wales is the land of mountains. They totally surround us. I get a real strange feeling if I'm out of sight of mountains for any length of time.

Love and hugs gina xxx

Higgins Design Studio said...

We are in the foothills of the Appalachin Chain here too, but the hills are different. Although I am still in awe when I can see the Blue Ridge Mountains from some of our roads here, I too have fond memories of those rolling foothills of our childhood home.
As I read your accounting of the sudden vistas as you turn a curve in the road, I too was brought back to those days. It has been nearly 11 years since I was last in Alfred and 14 since I last lived there.
Home is in South Carolina now, but the fond memories of childhood linger on.
Love you sis!